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Town Council lays out plans for reopening

“After the 100 days that we’ve gone through, I really appreciate how we as a community have been kind, we’ve been patient, and we’ve been responsive and responsible to COVID."
Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung

COCHRANE— Tuesday (June 23) marked 100 days since Cochrane Town Council activated the Emergency Coordination Centre, along with the closure of a number of public facilities, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the town positions itself for reopening, Cochrane Town Council discussed the COVID-19 response plan at their Regular Council Meeting on Monday (June 22), and provided an update on the current situation in Cochrane and the surrounding area.

Mayor Jeff Genung expressed his gratitude toward his staff and the community for their handling of the pandemic.

“After the 100 days that we’ve gone through, I really appreciate how we as a community have been kind, we’ve been patient, and we’ve been responsive and responsible to COVID,” said Genung. “The number of cases in our community has shown that, while we’re not immune to this, we have done our part.”

Genung continued on to say that he hopes that the town can find some positives in the innovation required to function throughout the last 100 days, and that they can come out of the pandemic stronger.

The initial plan had four key objectives: flatten the curve, avoid overwhelming the healthcare system, communication and keep critical systems and people working.

There have been 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Cochrane/Springbank area, with only one active case currently in the community.

Town staff detailed the financial impacts of the pandemic during the meeting, highlighting how the utility penalty, water tier change revenue, tax revenue, tax penalties, revenue generated by events at the RancheHouse, transit revenue, and planning revenue all decreased.

Those decreases coupled with the up to $1.5 million in funding approved for the Spray Lake Sawmill Family Sports Centre brought the total anticipated revenue reductions to $2.5 million.

However, the town implemented a number of cost-saving measures, including delaying hiring seasonal employees, cancelling the Eco Centre expansion designs, reducing contract services and reducing council budget to reflect the cancelled Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, a reduction to town public relations, among other items.

The cost savings totalled just more than $1.5 million.

The town also deferred a number of capital projects including the $3.1 million Horse Creek Sports Park project, the $300,000 Eco Centre Admin Space Expansion, and the $50,000 Cochrane Ranche Historic Site Master Plan.

The total list of deferred projects resulted in a $4 million reduction in capital costs.

As Cochrane moves to reopen, Town Council has laid out five objectives to strive for while getting things back on track.

The Town is taking steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of town staff and the general public and will use safety as a mechanism to guide decision-making and response protocols.

A transition toward re-opening will take place in a phased approach, leaving space for adjustments as new information and data becomes available.

The Town remains committed to ongoing communication with the community, and to keep staff and the community engaged and informed, and will implement the necessary protocols to help keep the curve flat and prevent the spread of the virus.

The Town is also prepared for the second wave, and will have the appropriate protocols in place to be able to respond quickly and appropriately to public health order requirements.